What happens in the website, portal, internet store or intranet development process?
Internet solutions – website, portal, internet store and intranet development and maintenance generally comprise a number of stages. This article provides an overview of the main stages, what could be called the development model. Obviously, there are always departures and differences from this model, depending on each specific project and the customer’s structures, nevertheless it provides a good general overview of the main steps in internet solution development.
Website concept and specification
After a survey of your company, sectors and needs (generally by interviewing your employees and a survey of websites relating to your sector), the developer prepares a website concept and specification which answers the questions: what information and functionality will the website have, how will each module operate.
For example, quality certificates would feature strongly in a cheese producer’s website, whereas a discussion forum would have little purpose. On the other hand, for a sporting goods retailer, a forum is a crucial requirement.
In parallel with the conceptual issues, a website design is created – initially the home page and then views of all the other pages (this means a special design for each type of content, for example, contact forms and photo galleries). Each design is viewed and approved by the customer.
After the specification and design have been agrees, website programming commences. Developers generally use professional content management systems for programming internet solutions (for example, Mediaparks uses the InSite content management system). Usually, between 2 & 6 programmers work on a website, depending on the scale of the project and the timescale set for development.
If the website is intended to be integrated with other systems (for example, online payment systems, company accounting systems, etc.), this is undertaken at this stage, in close cooperation with the maintainers of the corresponding system.
The developer reviews each completed module (for example, the photo gallery) with the customer and makes the required adjustments to its operation.
When website programming is completed, the developer trains employer-selected personnel on using the content management system. Training generally requires 1-2 hours. In addition, the customer has access to a system user’s handbook and supplementary questions are dealt with by a personal customer service specialist.
After website development is completed, content needs to be added, either by the developer or the employees you have designated. You should be aware that content entry is a time-consuming process and should be started at the first opportunity – as soon as you have agreed on the optimal website structure with the developer. You also need to allow time for translating content.
When content entry is completed, the website can be published (but this is still not the final step in a website’s life cycle).To publish a website, the following must be done:
- Selection and concluding of a contract with a website maintenance company – a hosting company. Latvia’s best-known hosting companies are DEAC, Hostnet and Telecentrs. Costs start from around EUR10 per month, depending on the size of the website and certain specific requirements. The website developer will generally help you select a hosting company and harmonise their technical requirements.
- The website’s designation – its domain name – needs to be registered. We do recommend that this is done well in time, as soon as the decision to create a website is taken. Latvian domain names (.lv) have to be registered at www.nic.lv, whereas domain names in other countries can be registered at a whole string of websites, for example, www.joker.com. Your domain name can be registered for you by the website developer at no additional cost (which is why it not worth buying domain names from expensive middlemen, something the internet is not short of). Please note that certain countries have specific regulations for acquiring domain names, for example, Estonian .ee domains can only be acquired by Estonian residents and each legal entity or natural person may only own one domain name.
- A server must be set up to host the website, usually done by the website developer.
- The domain needs to ne pointed to the hosting server, usually organised by the website developer.
After the website has been published, traffic needs to be attracted to it. The internet has many free, informative resources regarding the attraction of traffic to websites, for example, Mediaparks thoughts on attracting traffic to websites.
Website maintenance and service
On completing the development of the website, the developer will generally provide a guarantee period (Mediaparks offers a 4-year guarantee period), during which any errors would be eliminated at no cost, advice on the content management system from a personal customer service specialist would be available at no cost, improvement and further development of the website.
When choosing a website developer, you should take into account how long they have been operating, because when, in the future, it becomes necessary to upgrade the website with new functionality, it will be most cost-effective to use the same developer.
After the website has been published, it should be tested and streamlined, improving, at minimum, the most effective pages, utilising multivariate testing and other methods, something we will discuss in future articles.